A system similar to the goal line technology that will be used in the upcoming FIFA World Cup could in the future be used in football to determine whether a player has dived.
The practice of diving, where a player intentionally falls in the hope that the referee will think they have been fouled and award their team a penalty or free kick, is common in football.
Attempts have been made by FIFA to stamp out the practice, which is also known as simulation, and the number of yellow cards handed out to players for the offence has increased. However, there is little evidence that diving is any less common than it has been previously.
This could change if research by Dr Peter Weyand, associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics at Southern Methodist University, Texas, is successful.
Weyland is researching methods to identify the differences between intentional and unintentional falls during sports games, however the sport he is researching for is basketball, where the practice is known as flopping.
A flop is extremely similar to a dive; a player intentionally falls in the hope of getting an official to call a personal foul against his opponent, and attempts have been made to stop the practice, including recently-introduced fines for guilty players.
The research project, entitled ‘The Physics of Flopping: Blowing the Whistle on a Foul Practice’, has received $100,000 of funding from basketball team Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban.
According to Weyland, the research is in progress but has a long way to go before a workable solution can be developed. “We have developed a custom force and motion data acquisition system to specifically investigate the physics involved in flopping,” explained Weyland in an email to Factor.
“The project and line of research is not far enough along at present to fully identify technological options and feasibility.
“Video is the most obvious candidate, wearable motion sensors such as accelerometers would also be theoretically viable, but whether these approaches will have the sensitivity and robustness required is not yet known.”
Weyland does believe, however, that whatever solution is developed will have the potential to be used in football. “The soccer applications should be very similar in viability to those that are potentially usable in basketball,” he said.
If a solution were to be developed for football, it could have a serious impact not only on the game itself but on how fans watched and enjoyed it. Dives make for excellent post-match discussion points, and offer fans of the losing team an opportunity to claim “we was robbed”. Without them football could lose some of its charm.
Some have also argued that diving plays a positive role. Gary Neville, former Manchester United player-turned Sky Sports pundit famously argued that diving let players flag up fouls that were missed by referees, and so were an essential part of the game.
However, others believe technology can only improve the game. Following the introduction of goal line technology, Arsène Wenger, who has managed English Premier League club Arsenal since 1996, said that he hopes more technology will be introduced to aid referees.